AIMS Scholars Engineer Festively!

The AIMS Center for Math and Science Education, the working arm of the AIMS Education Foundation, has committed to helping teachers in the greater Central Valley of California pursue their Master’s degrees at Fresno Pacific University. To this end, funds have been set aside to scholarship teachers interested in earning one of the two MA degrees offered by FPU in Math or STEM Education. I would like to tell you about what the STEM Education Master’s candidates are doing during the week of June 19th, 2017, but first I need to give you some history.

Throughout the 1970s, ’80s, and into the ‘90s, FPU Grad Math Science put on a series of summer Festivals. There were festivals in Mathematics, Science, and Technology. Hundreds of teachers would come to the Fresno campus in June for a two-week, day-long collection of courses taught by a variety of experts in their fields. To say that these festivals were life changing would be an understatement, and I can say this because I attended two of them myself in 1989 and 1990. These altered my professional trajectory for the rest of my life. I was not alone, just ask Lori Hamada, the Executive Director of the AIMS Center herself, she had a very similar experience. We were permanently changed by the hot, sweaty hours we spent solving problems for Father Stanley Bezuska, Lola May, Margaret (Peg) Kinney, Wil Reimer, and Jim Wilson, to name the most familiar names.

Unfortunately, these festivals have gone away in recent years. However, through the support of AIMS, FPU’s Master of Arts in STEM Education is once again offering something similar. This year is the second offering of the Engineering in the Classroom Festival. While we do not serve hundreds of teachers like those earlier festivals, we still have a strong and committed group of over 50 K-8th grade teachers who come early in the morning, stay late into the VERY hot afternoons, and they work hard to come to grips with the applications of the mathematical and scientific concepts they have been studying. In my next post I will go into greater detail on what sorts of things they are doing, but to give you a taste, these students are studying the simple machines that humans have discovered, how they can be used to create more complex machines that do the work our backs would prefer not to do. Furthermore, they are designing, modeling, bench testing, and re-designing apparatus to be attached to rockets to slow their descent (see video for one of the rocket engines being used with a car to discover Baseline data for their experiments). To top it off, they are also studying the physics and mathematics of intricate paper-folding techniques that allow such apparatus to be deployed in small volumes on these same rockets. All this amidst a very collegial and collaborative environment to boot.

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